It is widely believed that current disparities in economic, political, and social outcomes reflect distinct institutions. Institutions are invoked to explain why some countries are rich and others poor, some democratic and others dictatorial. But arguments of this sort gloss over the question of what institutions are, how they come about, and why they persist. They also fail to explain why institutions are influenced by the past, why it is that they can sometimes change, why they differ so much from society to society, and why it is hard to study them empirically and devise a policy aimed at altering them. This 2006 book seeks to overcome these problems, which have exercised economists, sociologists, political scientists, and a host of other researchers who use the social sciences to study history, law, and business administration. It presents a multi-disciplinary perspective to study endogenous institutions and their dynamics.
Avner Greif is the Bowman Family Endowed Professor in Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University where he teaches economics. He is the recipient of fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometrics Society, and the MacArthur Foundation. He has published articles in American Political Science Review, European Review of Economic History, Chicago Journal of International Law, and the Journal of Political Economy as well as many edited books. Greif is also a co-author of Analytic Narrative (Princeton University Press, 1998).